Los Angeles, CA, WPH Press, 12/8/18- One of the strongest fields of the 2018/19 R48 8 Qualifier season gathered at the famed Los Angeles Athletic Club with a R48 main draw direct entry and R48 travel stipend on the line. Top 25 R48 pros Leo Canales, Jr. and Drft Fernandez made the trip from Juarez, MEX to challenge California’s George Garcia, Carlos Chavez, John Wayne Cortez and many more of the Sunshine State’s best. The finalists played four matches in the one-day event, making the LAAC R48 Pre Qualifier a battle of skill and will.
The LAAC’s Cortez entered the event as the #4 seed and dominated the upper bracket, ousting last year’s LAAC Pre Qualifier finalist Carlos Chavez in the quarterfinals and cruising past R48 #21 and LAAC Pre Qualifier top seed Drft Fernandez to advance to the final.
The LAAC’s Dylan Hernandez entered the 2018 LAAC R48 Pre Qualifier as the #6 seed and having never qualified on the R48 tour. Hernandez was motivated to erase the memories of a loss in November’s R48 8 Tucson Memorial qualifier final to Shorty Ruiz and the finals of November’s Portland Classic/R48 8 R48 Pre Qualifier to Aaron Garner. Hernandez stunned R48 #31 and last year’s LAAC Pre Qualifier champion George Garcia in the quarterfinals and continued his sensational play in the semifinals, defeating Juarez’s current collegiate national champion and R48 #21 Leo Canales, Jr. in the semifinals.
The winner of the final would earn the first R48 qualifier of his career, with LAAC teammates Cortez and Hernandez battling in the most important match of their respective careers. “I really think it’s going to be tough for Dylan in the final because he seems gassed after winning his semifinal against Leo,” barked LAAC team captain and tournament director Marcos Chavez.
Hernandez did not appear to be gassed in the first part of game one in the final, building a lead by consistently finding the bottom board before Cortez settled into a groove.
“John Wayne was able to slow down Dylan’s barrage of kills, passes, and incredible gets in the first game with some amazing anticipation and athleticism to rally from an early-game deficit to reach game point,” stated WPH reporter and Level 4 referee Pete Papathemetrios. “Dylan rallied to 13-14 in game one but John Wayne was able to close out the game after several side outs.”
Hernandez made adjustments after losing a razor-thin first game, using his defense to generate offensive opportunities.. “Dylan played great ceiling balls to produce setups, which he rolled out with both hands on his way to victory in the second game,” stated Papathemetrios.
Cortez made the adjustments between the second and third games, varying his play to seize the momentum of the final. “John Wayne switched the pace in the third game and used a power serve that put Dylan deep in the corners of the court,” stated Papathemetrios. “John Wayne struck perfectly placed kills to the corners and low passes that were just out of Dylan’s reach to win the championship.”
With the victory, Cortez is guaranteed a direct entry into the R48 8 Montana (January) or the R48 8 San Francisco (March).
John Wayne Cortez def Drft Fernandez 15-8, 15-7
Dylan Hernandez def Leo Canales Jr. 15-13, 15-10
Thank you to tournament directors Marcos Chavez, Vic Perez, and Mando Ortiz for a sensational event. Thank you to WPH photographer Kyra “K3” Vydas for the picture from the LAAC and thank you to WPH reporter Pete Papathemetrios for the updates from the LAAC.
Follow all of the scores from the 2018 LAAC R48 Pre Qualifier HERE
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R48 8 Portland press release HERE
Full Race 4 Eight 8 Schedule & Preview HERE
2017/18 R48 and WR48 Match Analytics HERE
Handball Terminology + Instruction and R48 Rules HERE
Race 4 Eight Pro Player Bios HERE
WPH Power Rankings: HERE
DF’s R48 Fun Facts and Trends: HERE
Race 4 Eight History of Champions and Finalists: HERE
WPH Senior Writer